Watching my neighbors watch on-demand television.

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
June 1 2007 4:11 PM

Other People's Porn

Watching my neighbors watch on-demand television.

(Continued from Page 2)

Other downsides: You can't control what's on. Not much of the content is in HD, which is unfortunate for those of us with HDTV setups. The show you're watching also might suddenly stop or fast-forward, like you've wandered inside someone else's TiVo. If your neighbor pauses Entourage to go to the bathroom, you'll just have to wait until he finishes. If he wants to skip the exposition and go right to the sex scenes, then you're going to the sex scenes, too. And if he stops watching Stranger Than Fiction with five minutes to go—well, you're just screwed.

But you can't beat the price (free), and sometimes it's fun to cede control. My friend who grabs on-demand stuff from Time Warner calls it "mystery cable"—it's fun to flip around the channels and hope you get lucky.

Advertisement

There is a science to watching other people's on-demand. If you want to catch the latest Sopranos or Entourage, start looking on Monday night—some of your neighbors will be catching up because they missed their shows on Sunday. Browsing during prime time will yield more programs than snooping in the middle of the day. If you start looking around 9 o'clock on a weeknight and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, you'll generally find a well-stocked buffet of recent movies.

On-demand voyeurism works the best for guilty pleasures or movies that you've already seen. If you're dying to see The Queen, get the DVD. If you're in the mood for popcorn fare like Deja Vu or Derailed, you probably won't mind if the movie starts in the middle or if the action pauses for a few minutes. And don't worry: In my experience, only the porn viewers really lean on the fast-forward button. If you sit back on a Friday night to watch someone else's movie, there's a great chance you'll see it all the way through.

My magical box will eventually stop working. Comcast plans to scramble the VOD content from premium networks (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax) first and move on from there. In the meantime, I encourage the people of Washington, D.C., to continue to order on-demand movies. For one thing, I still haven't seen the beginning of Deja Vu. If someone could queue that up for me tonight, I'd appreciate it.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.